Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio talks about the team's chemistry, the offensive line, and Brandon Randle. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — He might not have a set position just yet, but less than three weeks into preseason camp it’s clear redshirt freshman Brandon Randle is making an impact.
To say Michigan State is looking for a playmaker at defensive end to add a spark to a pass rush that was nearly nonexistent last season would be an understatement. Enter Randle, an outside linebacker by trade who redshirted back in 2016.
When camp started a little more than two weeks ago, Randle was being worked at end and had defensive ends coach Mark Snyder singing his praises.
“He may be the surprise of our football team,” Snyder said last week.
That was before Michigan State held its first scrimmage of camp. That was on Thursday, and when head coach Mark Dantonio was asked before practice on Monday which players stood out, Randle was the first he mentioned.
“I think Brandon Randle a guy that you look at right now and is a guy that you see doing some things at defensive end and at linebacker that give you an indication that he is going to be a very good player for us,” Dantonio said.
As much as the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Randle is relying on his physical ability to make a difference on the Spartans’ defense, it’s his approach to the game that is truly standing out.
At least, that’s the way co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Tressel sees it.
“The thing I see about him that I’m most excited about is he seems to have grown up in terms of the importance of Spartan football, his attention to detail on and off the field. He’s not just floating around anymore happy to be here. He’s like a different person in terms of focus and attention to detail.”
Randle is still working just as much at the STAR linebacker spot and admits he’d prefer to remain a linebacker, but he also understands there’s a need at end and thinks he can be a difference-maker.
And when the coaches approached him about the switch, he was all in.
“I wasn’t down about it,” Randle said. “At the time a position switch is what we need on the team right now. I was excited to play. I can definitely make some plays there. And playing defensive end definitely helps me at linebacker, for sure, just understanding the whole front seven. I’m happy about it, for sure.”
And it appears he’s making the most of working at both positions.
“For me, it’s been going pretty good,” Randle said. “The transition wasn’t that much of a change for me because I played defensive end in high school, played linebacker in high school. It’s just a few things, but it was pretty natural.”
Where he ends up for good remains to be seen, but with nearly three weeks until the opener, the coaching staff isn’t rushing anything.
“I think we’ll try to keep whatever he does as simple as we can because he will be a first-year player,” Tressel said. “We need to find out where he can make the most impact. Just like any other guy, trying to figure out where a guy can make the most impact.”
Freshmen catching on
It’s no surprise Michigan State will be counting on plenty of young players this season, and that’s especially true at wide receiver where junior Felton Davis and sophomores Trishton Jackson and Darrell Stewart, the likely starters, have combined for 20 career catches.
After that, wide receiver coach Terrence Samuel said two to three freshmen could join the playing group, including Hunter Rison, Cody White and Laress Nelson.
“Definitely Hunter, he’s in the mix,” Samuel said. “But Cody … and Laress. We’re looking at those guys right now. C.J. (Hayes) is still picking up the offense. He’ll be OK, but just a typical freshman.”